picture of children having search engine success

SEO is About More than Ranking High on Google

SEO stands for “Search Engine” Optimization. It’s Understandable People Get Confused.

Almost every day I delete an email from some “SEO” company, often written in broken English, telling me that they can guarantee a high ranking on Google. In the first place, such claims are always bogus (yes, I said “always” not “almost always”). In the second place, so what?

Ranking high is nice, it’s desirable, it stokes our egos, but ultimately, most business people realize that a high ranking, even a number ranking, can be completely meaningless. Of course once you think only in terms of “Search Engine” optimization, you might miss that the point of having a website probably is probably not achieved by a person searching on Google or Bing and finding your website.

picture of children having search engine success

Hurray! They found you! … Now what?

An SEO company owes it to their clients to focus, not on rankings, but on business success. Even Google drives this point, as mentioned by former Googler Maile Ohye

“A successful SEO also looks to improve the entire searcher experience, from search results to clicking on your website and potentially converting”

Not only does this make business sense, it’s absolutely critical from Google’s perspective. Think about it, Google is like a tour guide. If a tour guide keeps dropping the tourists off at destinations that bore them, that they can’t wait to leave, where they find nothing of interest that they’d like to take home, that tour guide will not get tips and eventually will lose customers.

Google has a vested interest in having people arrive at a website that they’ve “recommended” and say, “wow, this is just what I was searching for!”

When you become a client with Horizon Web Marketing, we view it an essential component of our program to analyze the type of website experience your customers will enjoy (or hate) when they land on your website. We’d like to offer some of the methods we use to understand and improve visitor experience on our clients’ websites.

3 Easy Ways to Understand Searcher Experience on Your Website

  • The best tool is still the easiest. Visit your own site and try to experience it through the eyes of someone who has never been there. This can be hard at first, but the longer and slower you browse, the more you can get a feel for that first-timer.
  • What good are friends if you don’t use them? Actually we’re talking about using them as unofficial testers. For example, if your site is an Ecommerce site, as a friend to buy one of your products (you might want to give them a substantial discount, say, 100%). Here’s the key, watch them do it. This is an occasionally painful, always useful experience.
  • Check your analytics. Google Analytics will show you on a page by page basis how long the average viewer will stay on a page (behavior > all pages > average time on page), how many of them leave without going deeper into your site ( > bounce rate).

Of course there are more sophisticated ways to measure searcher experience, but the priority remains the same, don’t get distracted chasing rankings or be satisfied when you’ve achieve them. As Maile Ohye said, “improve the entire searcher experience.”

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Woman looking at her face in a shard of broken mirror to illustrate measuring keyword rankings in seo

C-Suite SEO Tip #1: Target the Right Metrics

Measuring the success of SEO is a challenge, but it can’t be done if you’re looking at “vanity metrics” instead of numbers that matter to your business success. Read this to understand the difference between Key Performance Indicators and Vanity Performance Indicators and get ideas that will improve your marketing.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Looking for Some Real World SEO Training?

Kate: Can you imagine a life where everything was just easy?  You know, like where you ask for things, and then people just bring them to you?

Jack: It’s wonderful…

– “The Family Man” (2000)

Ah yes, wouldn’t it be nice if you could read some sage bit of Search Engine Optimization or Digital Marketing advice, call in one of your well trained staff members, ask them to implement and simply wait for them to bring you the results?

Welcome to the Real World

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Is SEO training just one more thing on your plate? Then only worry about the essentials!

I don’t know about you, but that ain’t the business world I operate in.  I grew up in small business, literally, and I’ve spent the last 35+ years in a world where managing a business or a department tends to be like fighting 5 fires in a high wind with a garden hose and a shovel.

Taking time away from all the other concerns of a hectic day to become an expert in SEO simply isn’t an option for most small business managers.  If you’re like me, you long for information that is stripped down to the essentials.

It’s to fill that need in SEO that we created a new online training course called “Real World SEO: Essentials.”  This course is designed to cut through all the stuff that no one in the “real world” will ever do and focus on the meaningful concepts and the realistic actions most busy small businesses CAN take based on knowing those concepts.

The course is divided into 9 modules and is approximately 6 hours of video training.

Who is the Course For?

Business owners and managers

This course wasn’t just designed for business owners.  It is designed for ANYONE who has to get their website seen while managing other business operations.

Independent web developers

It’s also a perfect class for Web developers who need to perform SEO for their clients but need to focus ONLY on the essentials that will have the best shot at results.

Marketing professionals

Finally, if you’re a marketing professional who is expected to manage, or simply know about, Search Engine Optimization, this course is a compact way to bring you up to speed on those concepts that will benefit your clients and put you ahead of most other marketing agencies who are after their SEO business.

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

 Try it Out for Free

We know how valuable your time is, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have been interested in the premise of this post.  So instead of forcing you to commit to a purchase of the full 9 modules, we’re giving away the first 3 absolutely free.  Once you sign up you’ll also get a downloadable free bonus: our SEO Workflow Journal, a template similar to what our agency uses for managing an SEO project.

The free sampler we’re giving away carries a double benefit: Not only will you have an idea of the value of the training before you purchase the full course, but regardless of whether you get the full course, you’ll get valuable and actionable insights.

What you’ll learn in Real World SEO: Essentials

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

Module 1 – Introduction (34 minutes)

  • The Starting Point: pragmatic SEO
  • Be ready to roll up your sleeves and do some work
  • Expectations for the course
  • What you will need
  • What the goals of the course are

Module 2 – Basic Understanding (22 minutes)

  • How search engines find web pages
  • How they organize and store web page content
  • The anatomy of a SERP
  • Why certain sites are ranked higher than others

Module 3 – Evaluating Your Website (36 minutes)

  • How to evaluate your current website
  • The importance of KPI’s
  • Getting started with Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • Resources for evaluating your website such as Open Site Explorer

Module 4 – Make it Search Engine Friendly (SEF) (62 minutes)

  • What SEF means
  • How to check for health problems using Google Search Console (GSC)
  • How to create an XML sitemap and let Google know about it, also using GSC
  • What a robots.txt file is, and why you need to check yours

Module 5 – Keyword Research (58 minutes)

  • Why keyword research is foundational to SEO success
  • How to do keyword research using Google’s “keyword planner”
  • How to determine whether a keyword is really competitive
  • Why “themes” are more important than “keywords”
  • How to set priorities for your SEO using your keyword research

Module 6 – Relevancy (56 minutes)

  • The important principle of “relevancy”
  • Key parts of the page for SEO
  • How to optimize a page for relevancy
  • What Panda is, and how to check your content for Panda-proof quality
  • The importance of a content-creation strategy

Module 7 – Authority (43 minutes)

  • The second pill ar of SEO success: Authority
  • What PageRank is and how it changed the search engine game
  • The impact of Google’s Penguin updates
  • Link-building basics

Module 8 – Conversion Optimization (27 minutes)

  • Why visits are meaningless without conversion
  • What factors keep people from taking action on your website
  • What conversion boosters will help you to get the most out of your SERP rankings
  • How higher conversions can also help your organic SEO efforts

Module 9 – Managing Your SEO (21 minutes)

  • Learn the difference between urgent and important
  • How to avoid SEO paralysis
  • How to get the most out of the SEO Journal that we provide as a bonus
  • What options are available to you to take your study of SEO and Internet Marketing to the next level

Bonus Materials

  • Sample SEO Workflow Journal (a handy team document for tracking and managing your SEO)
  • Google Special Search Operators for Keyword Research
  • Match Type cheat sheet to help you get the most out of Google’s Keyword Plan

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

Horizon Web Marketing is a digital marketing company.

picture of stop watch to illustrate 2-minute SEO video blog

2-Minute SEO: A New Video Series from Horizon Web Marketing

picture of stop watch to illustrate 2-minute SEO video blogHey, got a minute?

Or maybe two?  One thing that’s in ever shorter supply is time.  We deal with dozens of business people.  Managers, owners, marketing execs, even office workers and customer service reps.  No one has extra time.

But here’s the challenge in digital marketing: it depends on knowledge.  Make a mistake and the market will punish you.  Make a different kind of mistake and your competitors will punish you.  Make an even different kind of mistake and Google will punish you.

At Horizon Web Marketing our practice is built on SEO and related forms of digital media.  We know firsthand how frustrating it is for business people to know even what “SEO” is (other than to search on the acronym and find out it means “Search Engine Optimization”), much less to make use of it to promote their websites.

And so, we decided to try for an achievable educational goal for our clients: a series of videos that we have dubbed “2-Minute SEO.”  The videos are stripped to the bone to help non-SEO-professionals to understand what they need to know about SEO.

Our first set of 10 videos examines 10 of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we get about SEO.  In future videos we will examine not only the “frequently” asked questions, but the “should” ask questions that will make you empowered in buying and managing your digital marketing efforts.

Sign up for our e newsletter to stay in touch with new releases.  Our goal is to release 1 new video every week.  Since we also do SEO training, our videos are designed to instruct, not to give you a sales pitch.  So sit back and enjoy that SEO ride.

To see our current selection of 2-minute SEO videos: click here.

 

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Location marker illustrating local search

Using Google’s Search Location Setting. Buyer Beware!

Personalization and Localization of Search

Location marker illustrating local searchOver the years we’ve noticed increasing personalization of search. This is the practice followed by search engines of providing one set of search results to one searcher and a different set to another searcher even though they are entering the exact same search query.

Related to personalization is localization. I normally lump localization of search and personalization of search in the same category because they both do the same thing: customize search results to better fit the intent of the individual searcher.

Whenever you perform a search, you are connecting to the Internet using an I.P. Address, or number. This is a unique number that identifies your Internet connection. I.P. numbers are typically identifiable in general geographic locales. For example if I connect to the Internet here in my office in Grand Junction, Colorado and do a search on Google, even though Google can’t see who I am, they can see that my I.P. number is based in Grand Junction.  This allows Google to display search results that take into account my searching location. Google will favor, sometimes strongly, Grand Junction business websites based on my location.

This presents a bit of a challenge for an Internet professional such as myself, since I work with businesses all over the country and I need to see how well they rank for a Google search.

In the past the Google search location settings have come to my rescue. I can conduct a search, click on “Search Tools,” and set my location to “Las Vegas NV,” for example. (See screen capture below)

screen shot example of using search tools for location override

Search Location Override Isn’t What it Used to Be

But this method is no longer effective for me, because it appears that Google is displaying a different set of results based on whether I specify my search location or let them determine it automatically from my i.p. number.

This creates a problem for a business owner or marketing professional who is wondering just how visible their company website is on a Google search within a particular geographic region, especially if they are not physically in the area they are checking.

Let’s look at the following example, based on one of our own clients. The client in question is the dominant mover in the Las Vegas market, Move 4 Less. Move 4 Less is a local Las Vegas company that regularly beats out national competitors in search results. If I run a search for “Moving Companies” from my Western Colorado location with my search tools set to “Las Vegas Nevada,” here’s what I will see:

Example of search on Google from Grand Junction

Our client shows below the 7-pack, way below the fold in my Colorado search, even thought I’ve specified a location of Las Vegas NV.

 

A Physical Search in Las Vegas is Dramatically Different

Here’s the same search conducted by my colleague Matt from his desktop in Las Vegas.  Note how our client is showing up smack in the middle of the local results (the so-called 7-pack), which is far higher on the page:

from_las_vegas_user_matt_campbell_location_not-set2

 

What Takes Priority in Google’s World?

The physical location is not trumping the location setting in Google Search tools, it appears to be the other way around.  The Search tools setting is actually over-riding the results given by a plain-vanilla search conducted in the physical region.  How do I know?  Note this last screen shot.  It is the same search done from the Las Vegas location, but with the Search tools setting set to “Las Vegas.”  Here the geographic data is trumped and distorted in a very unpredictable way, showing a set of results identical to those I got in Colorado:

 

 

screen capture showing Google search with location hard coded

Search setting trumps physical location. But why it produces the results it does is anyone’s guess.

Conclusion

The take away from all of this is simple: don’t trust your own searches – or even your own eyeballs – when it comes to evaluating how visible your Website is in Google searches.  Many businesses obsess over “Googling” their “money” keyword terms, but this is such an imperfect way to measure it’s becoming almost useless.  There are better ways to determine visibility in Google search results, but I’ll leave those for another post.

(Or, if you can’t wait for that future post, either hire Horizon Web Marketing to do some consulting for you, or sign up for one of the SEO workshops that I’ll be teaching in Las Vegas this year.)

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.